This is the Coronavirus Schools Briefing, a guide to seismic changes in education in the United States that are occurring during the pandemic. Sign up here to receive this newsletter to your inbox.
Private schools and PPP
This spring, when the federal government disbursed billions of dollars in emergency pandemic funding, traditional K-12 public schools in Los Angeles received an average of about $ 716,000.
Meanwhile, Sierra Canyon School, a private school in the San Fernando Valley where LeBron James’ son is an outstanding basketball player, received $ 3.14 million – part of a loan – pandemic grant to its foundation of the Federal Paycheck Protection Program.
New York public schools have an average of $ 386,000 in federal aid. But Poly Prep Country Day School, a private Brooklyn school with more than $ 114 million in the bank, got a $ 5.83 million PPP loan. Public schools in Washington, DC, received an average of $ 189,000 in federal funding. But a $ 5.22 million PPP loan went to Sidwell Friends School, Sasha and Malia Obama’s alma mater in Washington.
This week, as the federal government releases a second round of P3 loans, watch groups are tracking the money. Since its inception, the $ 659 billion program, to help struggling family businesses and nonprofits cover their wages with loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration, has been marred by complaints that rich and connected had ousted the intended recipients.
A recipient database – released in full by the Treasury Department in December after the Times and other major news agencies filed a federal complaint – supported those concerns.
In education, the disparities were particularly striking. Public schools are not eligible for PPP loans because they have a separate aid pot under the federal CARES law. But private and charter schools could apply for the loans. Many did, sometimes to their embarrassment when the demands became public.
The Latin School of Chicago, which revealed an endowment of $ 58.5 million in a recent tax return, applied for a loan and then returned the money after an article in the school’s student newspaper, The Forum. The same was true for the elite Brentwood School in Los Angeles, after the Los Angeles Times noted that his students include two of the children of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
Yet many elite private schools kept the money they asked for, citing economic uncertainty and rules that limited their ability to tap into their endowments to cover their salaries. After an initial round of PPP funding quickly ran out, the Small Business Administration released revised guidelines for the program that state that employers with other funding options should not apply. The rules have since been tightened even further.
But Accountable.US – a non-partisan watchdog organization that compiled the aforementioned statistics on schools in Los Angeles, New York and Washington – says it still needs to fill in the gaps that hide fairness issues, making the program vulnerable. to potential fraudsters and continue to leave well connected cash in loans. And minority-focused lenders raise similar concerns. This fight is far from over.
No campus is extended in Singapore
After the epidemics of last fall, the city-state of Singapore has on average less than one locally transmitted case each day. Since the start of the pandemic, reports our colleague Sui-Lee Wee, its three major universities have not reported any cases of community transmission.
From our perch here in the United States, it almost sounds like a fantasy. But the three factors that contribute to its success – technology, restrictions, and compliance – can provide a useful benchmark for educators and government officials around the world.
The National University of Singapore has invested in vast testing resources and is screening dormitory sewage for traces of the coronavirus. It’s in sync with many American campuses.
But the university is also using technology to enforce social distancing measures, especially by evacuating crowds in high traffic areas. The university president regularly scans an online dashboard to see how crowded the cafeterias are. If the real-time map shows that a dining room is too full, it asks admins to send a notice to avoid it and use other options.
Singapore’s government has adopted an aggressive response to the pandemic: it punishes those who violate restrictions, in some cases by deporting foreign nationals and revoking work cards.
In universities, severe restrictions on campus have led to the expulsion of some students from dormitories to accommodate visitors. More than 800 students signed a petition last October to lift the restrictions.
“The consequences are serious, so people are afraid” said 24-year-old law student Fok Theng Fong.
A different student culture
Most students in Singapore do not live on campus. And Singapore has no fraternities and sororities.
Olyvia Lim, a senior at Nanyang Technological University, said reports of American students partying amid a pandemic have confused her friends.
“We all said, ‘Why would they risk doing such a thing? Said Lim. “It’s a little hard to believe because we’re the same age, but I think that’s the culture. It’s all about freedom, but when the government says here, “Wear a mask”, we all do it. “
Around the country
After the University of Alabama won the college football championship on Monday night, thousands of people partied in the streets to celebrate, in a potential super-spreader event.
Appalachian State University and the University of North Carolina-Charlotte joined a growing list of schools delaying the start of in-person learning. And a community college in California, Chaffey College, canceled in-person classes for the spring term.
Many colleges in Rhode Island plans to open soon, despite the rise in cases.
Art in the midst of chaos: Three students at Dartmouth College shared their artistic creations with Emma Ginsberg, reporter for the student newspaper. Jazz, pastry and theater are still flourishing.
A good read: Our colleague Billy Witz looked at the often absurd inequalities in college sports. “It’s hard to disentangle the hypocrisy from the heartwarming in the college sports mega-business, where the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the conflicts inherent in a financial model that is raking in billions off the backs of unpaid gamers.
About 250 public schools in New York City offer full-time classes, five days a week to all of their students, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio.
After delays, Utah began vaccinating teachers on Tuesday.
Arkansas expand its vaccine distribution to teachers, child care and higher education workers.
Boston plans to bring more students back from public schools for in-person learning starting in February. Last week, Governor Charlie Baker unveiled plans to begin pool testing for Massachusetts students and staff.
A notice from Chicago: Stacy Moore, Executive Director of Educators for Excellence-Chicago, did not mince words. “If the leaders of our school district and teachers’ union continue on this path, no one wins,” wrote Moore, a former teacher. “It’s time for both sides to act like adults and come to the table to compromise.”
A worthy watch: A teacher at a Baltimore public school posted a powerful video with student testimonials. “It’s so hard to stay connected with your computer,” said one student. “It’s like a curse.” Alec MacGillis, journalist at ProPublica, written on twitter that it was “the first collection of first-hand student accounts that I have seen from anywhere in the country”.
Tip: Covid tests for children
Our colleague Christina Caron has written a handy explainer for everything you need to know about Covid testing for children. She spoke to five doctors and two of the largest emergency care providers in the United States to analyze the following questions: Are there less invasive tests? If so, where? Are they correct? And how should parents prepare a disgusted young child for the sample?
There is a ton of information in the article. But in general, to calm the nerves, Christina recommends going to a pediatrician. “Doctors and nurses who test children regularly will likely know what to do if your child is nervous or scared,” she wrote.
Sign up here to receive the briefing by email.